NFL Season Win Totals

Season win totals are becoming an increasingly popular football wager largely due to the simplicity of the bet. Where most bettors may focus on spreads, money lines, and game totals, season win totals may actually be the wager that increases your bankroll by time the NFL regular season concludes. However, just like any other wager when betting on football, season win totals require a sensible approach and solid understanding if you want to find value and make money.

What Are Season Win Totals?

Season win totals are exactly what the name sounds like - the number of wins a team may have at the end of a season. Online sports betting sites will set a line for how many games a team may win. This line is designed to get the most action for bets over and under that number.

For Example

Just prior to the start of the 2017 regular season, the Buffalo Bills were listed as follows:

  • Wins: 6
  • Over: -155
  • Under: +125

As you can see, the Bills had a season totals line of 6 with an over at -155 and an under at +125. This means if you believed the Bills would win more than 6 games in 2017, then you would have to bet $155 to win $100. And if you believed they wouldn't win 6 games, then you would bet $100 to win $125.

The Buffalo Bills ended up winning 9 games in 2017, which means if you took the over, then you would have won.

Remember, this bet is only based on the number of wins during the regular season. It does not include the post-season.

The Pros for Betting Season Win Totals

Like with any other football wager, there are some pros and cons for betting on season win totals.

Pros
  • Easy to understand
  • Can bet on multiple teams and lines
  • Can make the entire season more enjoyable
Cons
  • Ties up part of your bankroll for the entire season
  • Have to wait all season long to know if you win or lose your bet
  • Can be confusing on when to place a season win totals bet

Tips for Betting on NFL Season Win Totals

Season win totals may be easy on the surface, but they do present some pitfalls if you aren't careful. To maximize your potential for winning these wagers, check out the following football betting tips.

Monitor the Offseason

In our article "using the offseason effectively," we detail how important the NFL offseason is for football bettors. Perhaps no other football wager requires you to pay more attention during the offseason than season win totals.

Depending on which reputable sports betting site you use, season win totals can be released as early as February after the Super Bowl. However, these lines and odds will change throughout the course of the offseason due to numerous reasons like free agency, the Draft, injuries, and suspensions. So by time the season arrives, bookmakers could've adjusted the lines to make them more or less appealing.

For Example

In May, the Arizona Cardinals were listed at 8 wins for the 2017 season. A few days prior to the start of the season, the Cardinals' season win totals line bumped up slightly to 8.5 wins. Another example was the Ravens, who were listed at 9 wins for the 2017 season in May, but by time September hit, the line had shifted to 8 wins.

As you can see, in a period of 3 1/2 months, which coincided with OTAs through training camp and the preseason, Vegas dropped the Ravens' win total down 1 and bumped the Cardinals' up a half.

It's important to stay updated on what's going on in the NFL because there are many factors like training camp and preseason games that can impact the season win totals by time the NFL regular season starts. And this could really impact the value and success of your bets.

When to Bet on Season Win Totals?

This is a tricky question to answer because it comes down to a few key factors:

  • Your ability to identify value
  • Your ability to handicap a team

With that said, there are two main strategies for when to bet on season win totals:

  • Early in the offseason when the lines first come out
  • Just prior to the start of the regular season

Using our example above, if you placed a bet on the Ravens to go over 9 wins in the spring, then you would've pushed your bet because Baltimore finished with 9 wins exactly on the season. Sticking with our example, if you would've taken the under for Arizona winning less than 8 games in 2017, then you would've pushed that bet because they finished with 8 wins.

However, if you were to have waited until September, then you would've been able to get the line at 8.5 wins for the Cardinals and won your bet. Additionally, you would've been able to hit the Ravens bet, too, because the line dropped from 9 wins to 8 wins, and you would've won with the over.

Pros and Cons for Early Offseason Wagers

Early lines may provide better value as the bookmakers have limited information on teams and are projecting their lines before anything of substance happens during the offseason. However, as the offseason goes on, sportsbooks will also have access to the same information as you do, and the lines may be more difficult to bet on.

Pros and Cons for Late Offseason Wagers

From our example above, it's clear that the late offseason wagers would've been more successful. When waiting until just before the season starts, you can monitor what each NFL team does during their offseason and get a better idea on how many games you think they will win. Just remember, bookmakers will be monitoring everything as well. So the lines might move to a number that is unappealing to you or provides no value.

Review Previous Seasons

When season win totals are first released, bookmakers are taking into consideration what the teams have done in the previous season(s). It's important that you also review the previous season's win total. However, don't stop there. You should really take a look at the last few seasons to get a better idea of if a team is progressing upwards, downwards, is erratic, or any other possible trend. You can also get an idea on how close the bookmakers were with their lines.

Team 2015 2016 2017
Lines Wins Lines Wins Lines Wins
Arizona Cardinals 8.5 13 10.5 7 8.5 8
Atlanta Falcons 8.5 8 7.5 11 9.5 10
Baltimore Ravens 9 5 8.5 8 8 9
Buffalo Bills 8.5 8 8 7 6 9
Carolina Panthers 8.5 15 10.5 6 8.5 11
Chicago Bears 6.5 6 7.5 3 5.5 5
Cincinnati Bengals 8.5 12 9.5 6 8.5 7
Cleveland Browns 6.5 3 5 1 5 0
Dallas Cowboys 9.5 4 8.5 13 9.5 9
Denver Broncos 10 12 9 9 8.5 5
Detroit Lions 8.5 7 7 9 8 9
Green Bay Packers 11 10 11 10 10 7
Houston Texans 8.5 9 8.5 9 8.5 4
Indianapolis Colts 10.5 8 9 8 9 4
Jacksonville Jaguars 5.5 5 7.5 3 6.5 10
Kansas City Chiefs 8.5 11 9.5 12 9 10
Los Angeles Chargers 8 4 7.5 5 7.5 9
Los Angeles Rams 8 7 7 4 5.5 11
Miami Dolphins 9 6 7 10 7.5 6
Minnesota Vikings 8 11 9 8 8.5 13
New England Patriots 10.5 12 11 14 12.5 13
New Orleans Saints 9 7 7.5 7 12.5 11
New York Giants 9 6 8.5 11 9 3
New York Jets 7.5 10 7.5 5 4.5 5
Oakland Raiders 5.5 7 8.5 12 10 6
Philadelphia Eagles 9.5 7 6.5 7 8 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 8.5 10 10.5 11 10.5 13
San Francisco 49ers 6.5 5 5.5 2 5 6
Seattle Seahawks 11 10 10.5 10 10.5 9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 6 7.5 9 8.5 5
Tennessee Titans 8 3 5.5 9 8.5 9
Washington Redskins 8 9 7.5 8 7.5 7

Now that you are armed with the data of win totals for the last 3 seasons and how the teams performed against the projected season win totals, you can analyze what happened over the last few years to gauge how they might do in the upcoming season. Factors you should pay attention to are:

  • Injuries
  • Division
  • Offseason moves
  • Player suspensions
  • Drafted players

Great teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots tend to win double-digit games each season. Looking at the table above, you will see that the Steelers won 10, 11, and 13 games over the last 3 years. The Patriots won 12, 14, and 13 over the last 3 seasons. Right there, it's easy to assume that these two teams will win double-digit games again. Additionally, both teams have gone over all three years, so it might be tempting to pick them to go over in 2018.

Bookmakers also realize this likelihood and have already set the Steelers at 10.5 wins and the Patriots at 11.5 wins for 2018.

Based on what the Patriots did in the offseason and the division they play in, they should get 12 wins this year. For the Steelers, it might be harder for them to win 11 games this year, as their AFC North division is tougher and a few of their divisional foes have improved already, while Pittsburgh hasn't really made any significant offseason improvements so far. Also, Pittsburgh has averaged 11.3 wins over the last 3 years. There's no real margin for error.

The Buffalo Bills have won 8, 7, and 9 games over the last 3 years. That's an average of 8 wins per season. However, early lines for the 2018 season have the Bills at 6.5 wins. This is largely due to their uncertainty at quarterback despite the team improving depth along the offensive and defensive lines, the running back position, and the secondary. Based on their average alone, there's a higher margin for error.

Now, before you run off to place wagers on the Patriots and Bills based on recent win totals, remember that this is just one tip in your overall strategy for betting on season win totals. The idea is to encompass all of these tips in order to make the most informed decision.

Study the Upcoming Schedule

Looking ahead to the 2018 season, you can get an idea of potential success for just about every NFL team. This is a significant step in handicapping teams and identifying potential wagers. Factors that you will want to consider in this process are given below.

Division

Since NFL teams play 6 games against their divisional foes, it's the first factor you should consider in handicapping a team's season win total for the upcoming season. For example, the Patriots have owned the AFC East for the last decade. With the Dolphins and Jets most likely taking a step backwards due to early offseason moves, New England has a good chance at sweeping these two teams. Additionally, the Patriots have had an incredible record against the Bills over the last decade and have a good chance of sweeping them as well. So once again, New England has a good chance at winning at least 5 games and possibly 6 in their division. If that happens, they only need to win 6 of 10 remaining games in order to get to 12 wins and go over the 11.5 projected season win total for 2018.

Bills versus Patriots

Conversely, teams like the Buccaneers are in trouble this year, as the other 3 teams in their division all went to the playoffs last year. Additionally, they all have made decent moves to improve their rosters, while the Bucs haven't done much to close the gap. For 2018, Tampa Bay's projected win total is at 6.5. So the question you have to ask is whether or not you think they will win more than 6 games in arguably the toughest NFL division.

As you can see by these two examples, the division they play in is crucial to their win total on the season.

In-Conference Games

After the division, a team's conference schedule is an important factor to consider. In addition to their 6 divisional games, each team will play another 6 conference games. And depending on which conference division they play, a team could really improve their overall win total.

In 2017, the Steelers swept the AFC North and then went 4-2 in their remaining conference games for an overall AFC Conference record of 10-2. Before you even factor in their non-conference record, Pittsburgh had 10 wins and was already near their projected season win total of 10.5. The Steelers played the AFC South division last year, which was the worst division in the AFC for the 2017 season. Their remaining 2 conference games were against the Chiefs and Patriots who, like the Steelers, won their respective divisions in 2016.

In 2018, Pittsburgh will play the AFC West division, which will be an improved division, so wins might be harder to come by. Not to mention that they will also have to play the Patriots and the Jaguars since all 3 teams finished at the top of their division in 2017. As you can see, their AFC Conference slate is going to be tougher this year, and they might not hit the double-digit win total this year.

Out-of-Conference Games

Just like against an opposing in-conference division, each team will have to play a division from the other conference. Sticking with our example of the Steelers above, they will play against the NFC South in 2018. Remember, this is the division that sent 3 teams to the playoffs last year. One of those games will be on the road at New Orleans, which is a very tough place for opposing teams to play. Once again, the 2018 schedule doesn't look very favorable for Pittsburgh.

For Example

The Jets went 5-7 last year in the AFC, but went 0-4 against the NFC South.

Out-of-conference games are set up so that a division from the AFC will play a division from the NFC once every 4 years. This means that there's not as much familiarity as with in-conference and divisional games. The Jets were a perfect example of how a winless record against the NFC prevented them from a more successful season.

Short Weeks

Short weeks refer to when a team has to play on a Sunday and then play again on Thursday, or they play on a Monday and have to play on a Sunday. This means the team has fewer days to rest and prepare, which could have a significant impact on their chances of winning.

Last year, Kansas City had a Sunday game against the Steelers and lost. They then had to turn around and play the Raiders on a Thursday night game and lost. Two weeks later, they won on a Monday night game against the Broncos, but then lost the following Sunday at Dallas. As you can see, these short weeks weren't kind to KC.

Keep an eye out for which teams have the most short weeks, as this could have an impact on their season win totals.

Lots of Traveling

Traveling all over the country for away games can have a detrimental effect on some teams. It's common knowledge that west coast teams traveling to the east coast have a harder time winning. A perfect example of this would be the Oakland Raiders. In their 4 trips to the east coast during the 2017 season, the Raiders went 1-3. Furthermore, they also lost their game in Mexico City, which was a drastic change in elevation.

Keep an eye out for a team's away schedule, as it will show how much they have to travel and where to.

Home and Away Games

Speaking of away games, most teams tend to have losing away records and winning home records. Of the 16 teams in the AFC, only the Steelers and the Patriots had winning records on the road. Furthermore, only 3 AFC teams had losing home records. The other 13 teams went at least .500 or better. In the NFC, only 4 teams had losing records at home.

Make sure that you examine the matchups at home and on the road. This will have an effect on a team's potential win/loss record at home and away. Sticking with the Steelers, we know that they play at the Saints in 2018. They will also have tough away games against Baltimore, Denver, and Jacksonville. However, they are fortunate to have home games against tough opponents like the Patriots, Chiefs, Falcons, and Panthers.

Come up with a Win Total Range

By now, you should have an idea of how many games you think a team will win. But instead of settling on that specific number, you should create a range with a plus/minus of 1 game. For example, if you think the Bengals will win 8 games, then set your range at 7-9 wins.

Let's dig deeper on how a range can help you with these types of football wagers.

After looking at the Steelers in several examples above, let's continue using them to further this point. I believe Pittsburgh will win 10 games this season. So my range would be 9-11 wins. The 2018 line for the Steelers is set at 10.5. This does not give me much room for error, as the line is at the upper end of me range.

Keep in mind that I set this range based on Pittsburgh's tough schedule, lack of offseason moves, moves by other teams in the division, and their average wins over the last 3 years. With that said, I don't feel that betting on the Steelers to eclipse the 10.5 mark would be a smart wager. Additionally, since I think they can win 10 games, it's too close to the 10.5 line to pick the under. Therefore, I would stay away from Pittsburgh altogether.

Avoid the Shotgun Approach

The shotgun approach refers to placing numerous wagers on season win totals without any real strategy. It's the idea that your chances of winning will go up with more bets. Unfortunately, this is not true. In fact, when it comes to season win totals, less is better. Avoid the temptation of placing numerous wagers on season win totals and really focus on a few that have the best chance of winning.

Limit your Wagers

Keep in mind, however much you place on season win totals, you will not have for the regular season. Since we feel that your football betting strategy should be diverse, by including different types of football wagers, it's best to limit the amount of money you place on season win totals. Typically, experienced bettors will limit their season win totals to a maximum of 5% of their bankroll. This allows for a healthy amount to be placed on a preseason bet, while still allowing for the majority of your bankroll to be used during the regular season.

Remember, don't tie up all of your bankroll for the entire season on these win total wagers. If you do, then you will most likely miss out on weekly wagers throughout the season.

Shop Around for Best Lines

One common theme that we always preach is shopping around for the best lines. In the case of season win totals, a 1/2 game could make all of the difference. If you remember from our example above, we discussed how the Arizona Cardinals had a line of 8 wins in May of 2017. The line went up to 8.5 just before the regular season started. Ultimately, the Cardinals finished the season with 8 wins. So if you bet on the over any time before September, then you would have lost because of that 1/2 game difference in the line.

It's the same concept when shopping for lines. If you believed that the Cardinals were going to win more than 8 games in 2017, then you should've shopped around to see if you could have found an online bookmaker who had the over/under at 8 wins, instead of the 8.5 line that we used from a popular site. In this case, you would've pushed instead of losing your wager. But what if you shopped around and found a betting site that offered the Cardinals at 7.5 wins? You would have won your bet.

It's important to take the time to shop around so that you give yourself the best chance of winning and finding the most value.

Find Value (Look at the Odds)

There are many bettors who feel that season win totals don't offer much value. In some sense, they're right. Not all of the lines will offer value. However, if you take the time to really examine the lines, implement all of the tips above, and look at the odds, then you will definitely find a few value bets.

Speaking of odds, make sure they are worth the wager. For example, the Chiefs have an over/under of 9 wins this season. The under is currently set at -175 odds. That means you would have to risk $175 to win $100.

KC has averaged 11 wins per season over the last 3 years, so some people might think that the 9-win over/under is a steal. However, if you paid attention to their offseason moves and saw what other teams in the division have done, then you would know that 9 wins will be tough for them to attain.

KC traded their starting quarterback, Alex Smith, and plan on going with a young QB who only played one game during his rookie season last year. They also got rid of their top corner Marcus Peters and don't have a player who can lock down an opponent's number-1 receiver. So the under looks more appealing due to these factors. Bookmakers know this and have cranked up the odds to -175 in order to offset the under action. In my opinion, the Chiefs are an unknown commodity right now, and risking that much money isn't worth the wager. It does not provide value.

Let's take a look at the Cleveland Browns as an example for finding value.

Example

In the spring of 2017, the Browns had an over/under of 4.5 wins on the season. By time the preseason had finished, the Browns' line went up to 5 because Cleveland finished 4-0.

If you watched Cleveland in 2015 and 2016, you would've seen how terrible they were. In fact, they had one of the worst offenses in the league for both years. Additionally, none of their offseason moves made them significantly better prior to 2015 or 2016. And playing in the AFC North with 2 perennial playoff teams in the Ravens and Steelers only makes it that much hard for Cleveland to win many games. Over the last 5 seasons, the Browns have gone 5-25 in their division. In fact, they haven't won a divisional game since 2015.

So it wasn't a surprise to many pundits that Cleveland only won 3 total games in 2015 and just 1 game in 2016.

By time the 2017 regular season was near, the Browns' wins total line went up to 5 wins, and the odds were -125. That means you would have to bet $125 to win $100. The bookmakers viewed the Browns' perfect preseason as a reason to bump the line up to an over/under of 5 wins. I saw the Browns' perfect preseason, and bump in the line, as a great value bet for taking the under. Cleveland has been a bad team for a long time. Until they actually start having consistent winning seasons, I believe they will continue to vastly underperform. The Browns would go on to finish the 2017 season with no wins. They became the second team in the history of the NFL to go 0-16. My under bet of 5 wins easily hit on the Browns.

Heading into the 2018 season, the Browns have an over/under of 4.5 wins and -120 odds. Once again, I don't believe they will win that many games, and I plan on taking the under. I believe the Browns will win 3 games, which puts my range at 2-4 wins. Although the 4.5 line is close to my range's top end, it's still worth the bet in my opinion.

I typically take the approach of waiting until at least a few preseason games have finished before betting on season win totals. So if the Browns do well in the preseason again and their line goes up to 5 wins for 2018, then I will be sitting pretty, as this is a full game above the high end of my range.

When identifying value, try to follow these suggestions:

  • Thoroughly analyze the data for each team
  • Come up with your win total range for each team
  • Compare your win total range with the actual lines and try to give yourself margin for error
  • Look at the odds attached to each line and make sure they're worth betting
What Is the Public Saying?

Typically, teams that get a lot of media coverage can really influence inexperienced bettors. This media coverage and favorable public opinion can also influence the lines that bookmakers set. In our above example with the Browns, they have been in the media constantly due to several reasons:

  • Made some big offseason moves
  • Had 2 of the top 4 picks in the NFL Draft
  • Are expected to add more playmakers

I believe the media attention they have received has influenced the listed over/under of 4.5 wins for 2018. In reality, we're still talking about a team that went winless last year and has only won 4 games in the last 3 years. I'm in the camp that believes the value is in the under for the Browns in 2018.

Keep an eye on other teams that are highly talked-about during the offseason and see how their lines shift throughout the next few months.

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